Being number two is always a hard job, but someone’s gotta do it. These backup goalies might not get the same acclaim as Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist, but they are still essential. Some members on this list have a case to be starting for their respective teams. Here are the NHL’s top 5 backup goalies.
1. Matt Murray: Pittsburgh Penguins
Windsor, Ontario native Matt Murray was instrumental in helping Pittsburgh win last years’ Stanley Cup. After an injury to Marc-Andre Fleury, Murray stepped in and finished with an impressive 21-15-6 record and a 2.08 GAA. Some might argue Murray should have been awarded the Conn Smyth for his efforts. Due to the return of Fleury, this guy has been made backup again. He only has 3 appearances under his belt in 2016-17, but the Penguins boast possibly the strongest goaltending in hockey. At only 22, Murray is the heir apparent in Pittsburgh. Let’s hope he gets the chance to shine.
2. James Reimer: Florida Panthers
Always a capable backup or starter, James Reimer has been solid in Florida. A love/hate figure during his time in Toronto, Reimer has done a fine job backing up to Roberto Luongo. Newly arrived a free agent, Reimer has made 4 starts in 2016-17 with a record of 2-1-1 with a 2.66 GAA and Save Percentage of .908. He might have struggled in the past when being a starter, but when called upon as backup Reimer can be a steady hand. It’s never an easy thing to bump Luongo as number one (unless you’re Cory Schneider or Eddie Lack). But with age and time against him, Reimer could be just the man to challenge for starting spot.
3. Andrei Vasilevsky: Tampa Bay Lightning
Fans in Tampa Bay breathe very easily when Ben Bishop is ruled out. Andrei Vasilevsky has proved to be a consistent presence when called upon. The 22-year-old Russian backup only has 44 appearances under his belt, but he has made them count. Already with significant postseason experience under his belt, Vasilevsky is a goalie with potential. Demonstrating a maturity above his years, this goalie could be an important piece of Tampa Bay’s future if given the chance. Vasilevsky has 4 appearances with a record of 2-1-1 with a GAA of 2.24 and Save Percentage of .922 this season. He will no doubt have some role to play in 2016-17.
4. Calvin Pickard: Colorado Avalanche
With Semyon Varlamov going through a career-worst start to 2016-17, backup Calvin Pickard has been essential to Colorado. Posting a remarkable 3-1-0 record in just four starts, Pickard has won 75% of his starts. Varlamov has been a shaky presence in net and Pickard is taking this opportunity to shine. Some healthy goaltending competition never hurt anyone, but Colorado is going to take their time to think over this one. Pickard has never made more than 20 appearances during a regular season. Will he just be a flash in the pan? The Avalanche will be keen to see how he develops over a full season.
5 Antti Raanta: New York Rangers
One of the most consistent backups in the NHL, Antti Raanta has only made 68 appearances since 2013. Henrik Lundqvist is the King of MSG, but Raanta is very much a faithful servant. He won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2015 but didn’t make a single appearance during their cup run. When called upon he is always steady figure between the pipes. Garnering a 3-0-0 record in just four starts, Raanta has looked confident and in form during this season. The 27-year-old Finn might struggle for game time in NYC. However, should anything happen to Lundqvist the Rangers could do a lot worse than Raanta.